On December 6, 2021, the School Board for the Kutztown Area School District implemented a new policy titled “Educational Equity.” The policy ensures that the school district is committed to “providing curriculum, instruction and assessment that is adaptive as well as responsive to – and reflective of – the student learners.” The policy also has definitions for words including “culturally responsive,” “diversity,” “educational equity,” “explicit bias,” and “implicit bias.” The term “culturally responsive” is often used to describe a method of teaching that includes the race and ethnicity of students as part of the lessons taught in classrooms. In the definition for “diversity,” the School Board specifically mentions “gender identity.”
The policy states that “each school employee is expected to conduct themselves in a manner consistent with the principles of this policy and for fostering a school climate that is educational equity focused and culturally responsive.” The policy continues to state that “employees shall receive supports in the form of training regarding cultural competency, cultural proficiency, cultural responsiveness, implicit bias, explicit bias, diversity and inclusion.”
The policy also explains that the superintendent will create a “district Educational Equity committee.” The policy explains that this “Educational Equity Committee will serve in an advisory capacity to the Board and will work to develop an Educational Equity Action Plan subject to Board approval.” Three goals are listed for the “Education Equity Action Plan”:
- Propose educational equity practices for implementation throughout the district.
- Include equity goals and practices from the district’s Education Equity Action Plan in the district’s comprehensive planning strategies.
- Ensure performance observations of administrators, faculty, and staff encompass consideration of the expectations and goals of this policy.
The School Board’s policy states that the superintendent will deliver an “Educational Equity Update” report “to the Board, the school community, and the public that reflects the efforts undertaken and progress made to achieve the goals of this policy.” The data for students in these equity updates “may be disaggregated and divided by gender, race, ethnicity, gender identity and expression, socio-economic status, English learner status and disability whenever possible.” The data on teachers in equity updates may include their “efforts to teach cultural responsiveness as a part of the curriculum.”
The policy explains that the “district shall provide instructional materials and assessments, and promote teaching practices that reflect and are responsive to the diverse cultural perspectives and identities of students and their families.” The policy then explains that the district’s curriculum will “promote culturally responsive teaching and practices.” In an effort to promote “workforce diversity,” the policy states that the school district will “actively recruit and/or promote highly qualified candidates who are committed to educational equity.”
The organization “KASD Children First PAC” has reported on the equity practices of the Kutztown Area School District. The organization posted a resolution from the School Board called the “Anti-Racist School Climate Resolution” that was adopted on September 8, 2020. The resolution from the district’s School Board states that “we understand and accept that racism is systemic, and it is unconsciously and consciously rooted into our institutions, policies, and practices.” The resolution also states that “we are called to advocate for and advance civil rights, social justice, and cultivate an anti-racist school climate necessary to meet the needs of ALL students in our care.”
The resolution explains that the School Board “unequivocally stands firm in its collective responsibility to foster an equitable, inclusive, and anti-racist environment for every student, staff member, parent, and community member.” The resolution also states that the school district will review the “policies and practices through an anti-racist and equity lens to address traces of racism and inequity that still exist within our own school community.” The resolution further explains that the school district will “continue Professional Development and Anti-Bias, Cultural Awareness training for all staff and administrators.”
The organization also has several documents from equity training sessions that appear to have been hosted by equity consultant Shauna F. King at the school district on March 10, 2021. These presentations discuss topics like “racial equity” and “microaggressions.”
PDE received an invoice from a concerned community member that showed how much the school district paid Shauna F. King from July 1, 2020, to June 30, 2021. In that timeframe, the school district appeared to pay her $11,000 in fees. Most of the fees were for staff development training.
KASD Children First PAC also published an equity audit the school district performed in 2020. The equity audit featured the following questions:
- Are relevant equity issues infused throughout all professional learning activities?
- Do KASD staff members receive training in culturally responsive communication and group processes to increase their effectiveness in working with diverse groups?
- Are teachers’ classroom activities and examples culturally responsive according to race, ethnicity, language, gender or gender identity, religion, and disability?
- Do teachers use classroom lessons to increase awareness and counter the past effects of bias and discrimination?
- Are teachers encouraged to use and provide examples of materials produced by women, people of color, and people with disabilities as part of the curriculum?
The organization compiled articles written by the school district’s equity team. One article stated that “our dominant culture identifies as white, middle class, Christian, and heterosexual” and advocated for everyone to “understand our own personal, social, and cultural identity.” The article then asked readers questions such as “What is your sexual orientation?” and “What is your gender?” Another article quoted Harvey Milk and described him as the “first openly gay elected American politician.”
KASD Children First PAC also reported that the Kutztown Area High School library offers the book Gender Queer to students. Gender Queer is known as a book that includes graphic illustrations of sexual acts. The organization also reported that the high school library offers the book All Boys Aren’t Blue to students which also contains graphic sexual content.
KASD Children First PAC obtained emails that the school district sent to teachers in January and February of 2021. Topics in the emails included exploring “identity” and providing teachers with material and lesson plans to include “identity” and “LGBTQ” topics into classroom discussions. A common phrase in the emails told teachers: “Please help us bring the theme of identity into your classroom.”